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Decipher Inc: Steve S. Long, Developer of the LOTR RPG! 17/11/01
<DarthCaeser> Alright, Good Evening folks, my name is DarthCaeser, I'm a Gaming Editor here at TheOneRing.net

<DarthCaeser> with us is Steven S. Long, Developer of Decipher's LOTR RPG

<LUG_Steve> Hello, folx. :)

<DarthCaeser> Steven S. Long is a game designer living in Greensboro, North Carolina, who has written, co-authored, and/or edited over 70 roleplaying game products for companies including Hero Games, Pinnacle Entertainment Group, White Wolf Game Studios, Iron Crown Enterprises, and many others. Prior to embarking on a full-time writing career, he practiced law. He is a graduate of Duke University and Duke University School of Law. Go Blue Devils!

<DarthCaeser> For the past several months, Steve has primarily been working as the Project Leader for Decipher's forthcoming The Lord of the Rings Roleplaying Game. As Project Leader, he is not only responsible for planning and outlining the core rulebook for the line, but for doing most of the writing and assigning the remaining writing to the rest of Decipher's RPG team. His goal is to create a game that's both easy and fun to play, and ideally suited f

<DarthCaeser> He wants to preserve the Tolkien "feel" and ambience, while still creating a great game.

<DarthCaeser> Steve has been a Tolkien fan for 20 years, and has read The Lord of the Rings over a dozen times (and Tolkien's other works nearly as much). Like many other hard-core fans, he has taught himself to write Elvish calligraphy and speak Professor Tolkien's fantasy languages. Encountering Tolkien's works when he was a teenager drove his interest in fantasy and science fiction, which led him to gaming, and eventually to his career as a game designe

<DarthCaeser> It's fair to say that without The Lord of the Rings, Steve wouldn't be where he is today. Naturally, working on the LOTR RPG is a "dream project" for him, one he's thoroughly enjoying.

<DarthCaeser> Ripped from Decipher's official bio, because we didn't have time to make on of our own :)

<LUG_Steve> Ah, it's all still accurate. ;)

<DarthCaeser> If you have questions, PM them to Berendir or Strider, we'll get started now

<LUG_Steve> And we're off! :)

<DarthCaeser> From Sergalas42: How have you handled racial levels in the game -ie Elves being way stronger, smarter, etc., than normal men?

<LUG_Steve> Well, there are a couple of considerations involved.

<LUG_Steve> First, there's the issue of setting simulation. When you're producing a licensed RPG product, it's important to properly and thoroughly represent the setting and what goes on in it.

<LUG_Steve> If I design a LOTR RPG that doesn't accurately reflect Tolkien's works, you the fans will be upset, and rightly so. Generally speaking, anything you read in LOTR, you should be able to do in the RPG, and characters created/played in the RPG should "feel like" Tolkien characters.

<LUG_Steve> But there's also the consideration of game balance. It's important that all characters be *reasonably* similar in their capabilities and competence, or else some players feel slighted, neglected, or left out.

<LUG_Steve> Balancing these two considerations is often tricky. At Decipher, and for me specifically, the policy is to err on the side of *setting simulation,* not game balance. If the game doesn't feel like LOTR, if the characters don't feel like characters in a Tolkien adventure, then the game's broken, even if it's well-balanced.

<LUG_Steve> So, in the LOTR RPG, the goal, first and foremost, is to simulate M-E and everything in it.

<LUG_Steve> Thus, the Elves have a big, fat pile of special abilities that other races don't, because that's the way they're depicted in LOTR. If I gave you a game where the Elves couldn't do what they're shown doing in the book, you'd complain long and loud, and you'd be right to.

<LUG_Steve> However, this is not to say that game balance has been tossed out the window.

<LUG_Steve> Many Elven, Dwarven, etc., etc. abilities really aren't all that "unbalancing," or can be depicted in ways that minimize their impact on game balance.

<LUG_Steve> For example, Elves can run on snow, grass, etc. without leaving much in the way of tracks. Cool, yes. Fun, yes. But outrageously game unbalancing? Naah.

<LUG_Steve> It doesn't often come up that player characters (PCs) get tracked, after all.

<LUG_Steve> Besides, the way we simulate this in the game -- penalties to track them -- doesn't necessarily stop anyone from following them, it just makes it trickier.

<LUG_Steve> Similarly, many other abilities are simulated with bonuses to Skill rolls, or things like that. Again, not particularly unbalancing, but flavorful and fun.

<LUG_Steve> Next question?

<DarthCaeser> one thing about Steve we forgot to mention, he's a World Famous speed typist ;)

<LUG_Steve> Well, I cheated -- I saw the ? in advance and began prepping my answer while you were posting the bio. :)

<DarthCaeser> we'll give you guys a 'sec to soak that all in

<DarthCaeser> from Lord_Gandalf: When did the development of the 288 page book start? and how did he get the job?

<LUG_Steve> It began last February, when I was hired. I immediately started re-reading Tolkien, buying special copies of the books for research purposes so I could underline and annotate 'em.

<LUG_Steve> After I re-read them -- twice -- I started outlining the book. Then, in June, I began full-scale writing.

<LUG_Steve> With various breaks for game conventions, and work on the STAR TREK RPG, I've been writing it steadily ever since, and basically finished it a few days ago (in first draft).

<LUG_Steve> Next question?

<DarthCaeser> from Fastred: How do you see Eriador in late TA? empty? or somewhat populated?

<LUG_Steve> I see late TA Eriador as being fairly underpopulated. There are a lot of wild areas that either were never settled, or are now abandoned. And of course there are plenty of dangerous areas to the north. In short, there are lots of ruins and evils that can be used in an RPG. :)

<LUG_Steve> Next question?

<DarthCaeser> This one from Tookish: How closely to the novel's plot line must the game follow? What kind of deviations can occur?

<LUG_Steve> It doesn't have to follow the plotline at all. There are lots of options.

<LUG_Steve> First, there's the choice of when you set your game -- before, during, or after the War. That influences how the book's events may affect your game.

<LUG_Steve> Second, you have to decide whether you refuse to change anything that's been written, or you're willing to make some changes.

<LUG_Steve> So, it really all depends on what the Narrator and players want to do. If you choose our "default" time period -- the 77 years between the finding of the Ring and the War -- there's very little for you to mess up anyway.

<LUG_Steve> Next question?

<DarthCaeser> From Drogo: Will players have the option of choosing evil races, like trolls or orcs?

<LUG_Steve> No. Or, more precisely, if they choose them, they'll have to adapt the Orc and Troll writeups from "The Enemy" chapter for player character purposes; I'm not giving them a single shred of help.

<LUG_Steve> The main thrust of the LOTR RPG is the creation of grand, epic, *heroic* fantasy RPG stories. I want players to play noble, heroic characters, not evil Orcs. :)

<LUG_Steve> Next question?

<DarthCaeser> N9IWP asks: As the article on your website says, magic in LOTR is mostly subtle. Can you give an example of a magical things that can be done in the game?

<LUG_Steve> Sure. There are over 70 spells in the "Magic" chapter right now, all taken from the books. They include: kindling fires; creating light; blasting enemies with lightning bolts; blinding flashes of light; enhancing healing; evoking awe in your enemies; summoning and speaking with beasts; changing shape.

<LUG_Steve> I could go on, but that should give you some idea. ;)

<LUG_Steve> Next question?

<DarthCaeser> This one from Sergalas42: How realistic have you made the game healthwise - ie very fantastic and hard to kill or very realistic and super dangerous or in between?

<LUG_Steve> I'd say it tends more toward the "dramatic," in that PCs should be fairly difficult to kill easily. However, a lot of that depends on the Narrator, to set the stories and combats up properly. Remember, with the exception of Frodo and Boromir, *none* of the members of the Fellowship suffered a serious wound *throughout the entire epic.* Narrators should, likewise, go easy on injuring PCs; this is discussed in the GMing chapters.

<LUG_Steve> Next question?

<DarthCaeser> esigned from the ground up, or has the game in any way been based on the tragically short-lived MERP?

<DarthCaeser> oops

<DarthCaeser> A question from OldTook: Has this new rpg been designed from the ground up, or has the game in any way been based on the tragically short-lived MERP?

<LUG_Steve> It's been designed wholly from the ground up. It has no connection with MERP; I've never even read any MERP supplements. However, I'd hesitate to call a game with an, oh, 15-20 year history "short-lived." MERP is (was) one of the Grand Old Men of the gaming industry.

<LUG_Steve> :)

<LUG_Steve> Next question?

<DarthCaeser> From Sergalas42: How much of the setting (areas, towns, people) have you had to invent yourself - and how did you ensure that it was in the spirit of Tolkien?

<LUG_Steve> Well, at present, in the core rulebook, we haven't really had to invent *any* settings or areas -- the core book can't cover every part of M-E in excruciating detail; there just ain't room. :)

<LUG_Steve> In the future, when we make things up, we'll ensure that it fits the Tolkien spirit in the same way we have to date -- by immersing ourselves in Tolkien's works, and respecting 'em as we "sub-create" ourselves. :)

<LUG_Steve> There's no formula for making something "Tolkien-esque," for better or worse. :)

<LUG_Steve> Next question?

<DarthCaeser> Another one from Sergalas42: How have you handled the "I can't hope to change anything as the real worldchanging stuff is being done by Frodo and friends" issue?

<LUG_Steve> In several ways. First, by choosing the earlier time period as our "default," we leave open the possibility for the PCs to save the world before Frodo has to step up to the plate.

<LUG_Steve> Second, if gamers are willing to change the events of the novels, Frodo et al.'s actions don't matter.

<LUG_Steve> Third, even if you don't want to change anything, and want to play during the War, there are *lots* of possibilities. For example, the PCs could take part in the Battle of Dale or the like.

<LUG_Steve> As Gandalf notes, if not for the heroism displayed there, the actions at Minas Tirith might have been in vain.

<LUG_Steve> A clever Narrator could easily concoct many similar scenarios.

<LUG_Steve> Fourth, you could avoid the problem entirely and set your game in the early Fourth Age. Lots to do there, with no worries about changing anything or getting outshone. ;)

<LUG_Steve> Next question?

<DarthCaeser> Patched together from comments by various people: "Remember, with the exception of Frodo and Boromir, *none* of the members of the Fellowship suffered a serious wound *throughout the entire epic.*"? What about Merry and the Witch King? Pippin and Merry forced to march wounded for days? Sam nearly dying of thirst? and Gandalf falling down a really big hole?

<LUG_Steve> There's some confusion here. :) First off, remember, I said *serious* wounds. Sam's scalp wound, Gimli's scalp wound, Merry and Pippin getting banged about by Orcs -- none of those were serious; that sort of thing is for color, and has no real game effect.

<LUG_Steve> It's important to differentiate -- as the game tries to in various ways -- between what you see "on screen" and what *has a game effect.*

<LUG_Steve> Second, as for Sam and Frodo being starved and tired, that's dealt with by our Weariness Rules, not as an injury. ;)

<LUG_Steve> Third, as for Merry and the Witch-king, I wasn't really thinking of that as a "wound" -- but as a magical effect. It wouldn't be represented by a loss of Wound Levels but as a loss of use of the arm.

<LUG_Steve> Fourth, Gandalf's dying was a Big Plot Device. :) Again, not really something represented through a series of game rules for injury. ;)

<LUG_Steve> Anyhow, hopefully that clarifies -- if not, ask some follow-ups! :)

<LUG_Steve> Next question?

<DarthCaeser> Yet another one from Sergalas42: How much information are there on the "Big players" like Frodo, Gandalf, Sauron and the Nazgul? Is it mainly descriptions or are there stats and details?

<LUG_Steve> There are complete stats for a whole bunch of NPCs, including everyone in the Company.

<LUG_Steve> Next question?

<DarthCaeser> And yet another one from Sergalas42: Are there any rules for corruption from powerfull items (or just power)?

<LUG_Steve> (I should note -- I couldn't fit in *all* the NPCs I wanted -- not enuf room, sadly. But there are enough to get you started. :) )

<LUG_Steve> Yes, there is a complete subsystem for Corruption. Characters can earn Corruption in many ways, ranging from learning sorcery (evil magic), to giving in to wicked temptation, to wearing the One Ring under various circumstances.

<LUG_Steve> Next question?

<DarthCaeser> OK, We'll open up the room in a second, so you all can chat with Steve if he wants to stick around for a while

<LUG_Steve> Be glad to stick around as long as there's interest. ;)

<DarthCaeser> I'd like to thank Steve for stopping by and answering are question, and Berendir and Strider for helping out

<LUG_Steve> Hey, I can't resist the opportunity to talk about myself or my work. :)

<DarthCaeser> We'll be having more chats with Decipher in the near future, the next one will be another TCG chat

<DarthCaeser> scheculed for... soon

<DarthCaeser> As well as other cool Decipher type events

<DarthCaeser> Your free to chat :)

<Tookish> thanks for coming Steve, and good to see you again!

* Tookish bows

<LUG_Steve> Glad to be here. :)

<Berendir> This has been great Steven. Thanks for being so elaborate and interactive with your responses ; ). I now feel my RPG knowledge is enhanced (o)_(O)

<LUG_Steve> OK, any other question? Any that were overlooked accidentally? Other issues to raise? :)

<Tookish> how much playtesting have you done for the game so far?

<Sergalas42> Great answers Steve

<N9IWP> How do you advance?

<LUG_Steve> So far? None. It's really only been finished a couple of days. We are putting our plans in motion for playtesting soon, tho.

<Sergalas42> What is the "default" time period for the game?

<N9IWP> why 2d6? I have all these polyhedra going to waste...

<LUG_Steve> Advancing: every 1,000 Experience Points you earn, you get an "advancement." That entitles you to a certain number of picks from a defined list that has "costs" for Skills, abilities, and whatnot.

<LUG_Steve> The virtue of this is that two characters, each with, say, 10 advancements are roughly equal in power -- but you have no way of predicting what they're good or bad at just by knowing they have "10 advancements."

<N9IWP> get xp from killing things., finishing quests., etc?

<Fastred> Steve - as you know from my questions on the Decipher boards - i'm interested in background :) - so, when do you think background material is likley to be produced? Any hints as to who is involved? ;)

<LUG_Steve> The default period is the 77 years between the finding of the Ring (TA 2941) and the War (TA 3018).

<LUG_Steve> N9 -- Because we want the game to appeal to Tolkien fans who aren't necessarily gamers. We don't want 'em to have to hunt down strange new dice to play. Everyone's got a few d6s lying around somewheres. :)

<Strider> Steve, how closely do you work, if at all, with New Line in regards the RPG?

<LUG_Steve> N9 -- You can get XP lots of ways. Completing goals is the most important one. There aren't specific XP totals for every monster you kill, or like that.

<LUG_Steve> Well, *I* haven't worked with New Line at all. My bosses have to interface with NL sometimes, but I never have. Besides which, the game's based entirely on the book, not the movie. Aside from having read the script to work on the LOTR TCG, I've had no contact with the movie.

<Sergalas42> Will this chat be posted somewhere so we can go back and reread the answers?

<DarthCaeser> What's the differance between the RPG and the Adventure Game?

<DarthCaeser> yes Sergalas

<LUG_Steve> Fastred -- by background material, do you mean supplements and sourcebooks and such?

<Strider> Sergalas: On the main site, yep :)

<Fastred> yes Steve :)

<Sergalas42> Great

<Arogant> Will you do background material the way ICE did it ?

<LUG_Steve> Darth -- the Adventure Game is a highly simplified form of the RPG, aimed at newbie gamers and younger gamers. You play the Fellowship, and you work your way through Moria. The RPG is a full-fledged RPG where you create your own characters and make up your own adventures. :)

<LUG_Steve> Fastred -- we have a bunch of supplements planned. Some are on races, some on specific areas, some on subjects like "fell beasts." They'll be written by Decipher's RPG Studio staff -- me and my colleagues -- AFAIK. :)

<N9IWP> cool adventure ideas: Explore the sea of Rhn. Finding one of the Dwarf Rings thought to be destroyed by dragons

<LUG_Steve> Arogant -- what do you mean? I haven't read any MERP books, so I'm not clear what you're referring to.

<LUG_Steve> N9 -- I have long list of cool adventure ideas. There's LOTS of fun stuff to do out there, even if you want to leave the events of LOTR untouched. :)

<oc> Steve: the license is for LotR, but how much are you allowed to draw on his other works?

<Arogant> I mean, inventing names and background for Nazgul for example.

<Sergalas42> And skills and stats for the main characters

<LUG_Steve> OC -- not at all. Our license covers LOTR (and, IIRC, The Hobbit). Something that appears solely in SILMARILLION or UT, I can't use or mention at all.

<oc> Has that been frustrating?

<Berendir> Covers UT? Awesome... *Loves Unfinished Tales*.

<LUG_Steve> Arogant -- yeah, we've done some of that. Not much, yet, since this is just the core book, but in time we'll do more. One of the things a game needs, that a novel doesn't necessarily, is lots and lots of little details like names o' Nazgul. :)

<Fastred> but, oc - there is nothing stopping fans from doing so in their own games!! :)

<LUG_Steve> OC -- enormously. I can't even describe to you how much.

<Tookish> thanks again Steve :)

<LUG_Steve> Fastred -- precisely so! I expect a lot of cool fan stuff to pop up and cover things we, legally, cannot.

<Esorlem> How strict are your classes? I read recently that some gamers in 3rd ed D & D believe classes are restricting the use of imagination and if a person creates a character tht has characteristics that differ to the class it can cause problems for the game Master

<Fastred> Steve - look forward to being of assistance in that regard! :))

<oc> I wonder if a wider license was available. It's Tolkien Enterprises in charge of all those rights, I think.

<LUG_Steve> Esorlem -- well, to some extent I'd agree with that POV. I think our orders (that's the term) aren't nearly as restrictive as D&D classes, but by their very nature "classes" do require some restrictions. But by and large, there's plenty of room for you to work out whatever sort of LOTR character you want in our game. :)

<LUG_Steve> Fastred -- good! The more, the merrier. :)

<N9IWP> I prefer pure skill based systems myself

<Sergalas42> Steve - Are there any chances of getting to do Silmarillion stuff later on - or does it cost an arm and a leg, if it's even available?

<LUG_Steve> OC -- no, it's not. TE has LOTR and Hobbit. The Estate has persistently refused to license anything else, and it's my understanding they will NEVER change that position.

<DarthCaeser> the Tolkien Estate doesn't hand out Sil or UT or such liceneses to anybody

<LUG_Steve> Sergalas -- it's not even available, so no chance whatsoever. :(

<oc> Oh -- I didn't read much MERP but I didn't much notice the lack of non-LotR stuff there.

<N9IWP> well, itr will be public domain eventually (maybe)

<oc> Does LotR even have the word 'Istari'?

<LUG_Steve> ICE got some special dispensations to include some non-LOTR stuff, but we've been told no such thing will be happening *this* time around.

<LUG_Steve> OC -- not outside of the appendices. Believe me, I've looked. :)

<Sergalas42> What kinds of non-LOTR things?

<Fastred> Yea but Sergalas - *you* can use it in a non-commercial sense

<LUG_Steve> Like, they got to mention Allatar, and Palando, and some Valar not mentioned by name outside of Silmarillion.

<Arogant> I do not know if this heretic question has already been asked, but will you publish Sauron's skills ans stats .

<oc> It could be worse. You're lucky the appendices weren't cut when LotR was published.

<N9IWP> It would hard for a PC to play an istari, since there are only 3 in the book

<Berendir> Alatar and Pallando the lazy Blue's.. who went into the east to go camping and said, "Nah.. lets not bother with Sauron."

<DarthCaeser> 4

<Fastred> good question Arogant :)

<N9IWP> well, 2.1 R only gets 4 sentances

<Sergalas42> Fastred - I know and do - it's the golden rule - but supplements and games are still nice

<DarthCaeser> 5

<DarthCaeser> 3

<DarthCaeser> ::sigh::

<LUG_Steve> N9 -- there's actually lots of information squirrelled away in LOTR that points at a fairly vibrant tradition of magic use in M-E. We do have provisions for players to play wizards.

<DarthCaeser> what was the question?

<oc> Does the RPG design team have any devout Catholics, war veterans, or linguists? Imaginative sympathy can go a long way, but to memorably expand Middle-earth you'd need some of that.

<Fastred> ???

<oc> Like Tolkien.

<Fastred> i c

<LUG_Steve> AFAIK we have no one who fits any of those bills. However, what we *do* have is some of the top names in RPG design today, and I have every confidence that we can create additional game material that's fully within the "Tolkien spirit."

<Sergalas42> Steve - how common or uncommon are magical items and how do they "work"?

<Berendir> I think true fans of Tolkien's works can understand his imaginary world with, or without those experiences...

<oc> I have been impressed with your ability to adapt, Steve (Keats's negative capability).

<oc> Who would your choice of star game designer to work with be?

<N9IWP> You mentioned shapechanging, so I ca ne a Beornling?

<LUG_Steve> Serg -- they're pretty uncommon, but they do exist. We also have "heroic items" -- items that get bonuses or whatnot based on their lineage, use, or the subtle magics of Middle-earth, but which aren't per se "enchanted." (Anduril being the best example of this.) There are plenty of example enchanted items, to give Narrators guidelines for creating their own if they want. But to stay within the M-E spirit, they should be neither commo

<oc> Berendir, I don't disagree, but there's much fantasyland drek made by people who *think* they understand Middle-earth.

<N9IWP> I'm going to "borrow" Orcrist

<LUG_Steve> Hey, adapting's the key with a licensed RPG -- and having done Trek, DUNE, and the Wheel of Time, we're pretty good at that sorta thing. ;)

<N9IWP> theres is a Dune RPG?

<LUG_Steve> N9 -- yes, you could.

<Berendir> True OC, but, as long as they are genuine fans of the books, that's enough sympathy experience for me ; )

<LUG_Steve> N9 -- Last Unicorn Games produced one that WOTC published. Only 3,000 copies were printed, sadly. It's rare as hen's teeth, and often expensive, too. But it's a Damn Good RPG. :)

<LUG_Steve> :)-

<Sergalas42> Steve - is there any part of the game you are especially proud or fond of (I know it's early days but...)?

<LUG_Steve> N9 -- there are writeups of Orcrist, etc., so you can easily create a similar sword for your own chronicle. ;)

<LUG_Steve> Serg -- well, the whole thing, really. :) I supposed I'd have to say that I think I did a really good job with the magic rules -- that being the trickiest part of the book.

<Arogant> What about rules for large scale battles ?

<LUG_Steve> Arogant -- got 'em! Wouldn't be a LOTR RPG if you couldn't besiege stuff, now would it? :)

<N9IWP> Actually, I want a "heroic" axe (Gimlis action figure has *5*)

<Fastred> Steve - i'm looking forward to the rules on economic exchange and trade (joke)

<LUG_Steve> They're pretty simplified and abstracted, but that's really a feature, not a flaw. :)

<oc> Apropos of whatever, CJ Cherryh has piles of Union-Alliance notes that wouldn't sell enough to be worth publishing. So much for world-building.

<LUG_Steve> N9 -- you can easily make one! :)

<oc> Many cool milieux that's make good games.

<N9IWP> oh! oh! I want Grond!

<LUG_Steve> OC -- true. Though I think at this point, most of the best licenses for RPGs have been taken.

<LUG_Steve> N9 -- well, you can have it. :) The rules include siege engines and a Siegecraft Skill. :)

<Sergalas42> Steve - how realistic have you made the combat? Tons of skills, maneuvers, fatigue checks etc. or in between for faster pacing?

<N9IWP> but again, nothing stopping you from using a simlar system. D&D in Earthsea for example

<Arogant> Better if the large battle rules are simplified. Otherwise it takes hours to play !

<Fastred> oh Steve - if he can have Grond, can I have trading Dorwinrim? :)

<oc> The ones that are commercially obvious have been claimed, I think.

<LUG_Steve> Serg -- in between, for faster pacing. I don't really want "realism." I want "dramatic realism," the "realism" you see in Tolkien's book. After all, it's not very "realistic" for any of the Hobbits to have survived, now is it? :)

<Sergalas42> What? Noone wants the One Ring?

<oc> I'm glad Steve is using fidelity to setting as a priority.

<LUG_Steve> I want the combat to be fast-paced and exciting, and to contribute to the stories being told, not to become a long, drawn-out exercise in wargaming tactics. ;)

<oc> Wizards has gone too far towards assuming Star Wars characters are like D&D parties.

<LUG_Steve> Arogant -- exactly! :)

<Sergalas42> Dramatic realism is my favorite also - style over substance any day!

<LUG_Steve> Fastred -- sure, have all the wine merchants you want. :)

<Messiah> yes..many MMOs and non, alike have the tendancy to move towards powergaming and balance issues..

<Fastred> lol - but any *rules* for economics? or shall I draft up some of those too? hehe

<LUG_Steve> Serg -- that's exactly what I think. In fact, I would've made the rules even *more* drama-oriented, but I was overruled. :)

<Berendir> Steven, thanks for coming and have fun everyone! I'm going to go fill my belly with dorm-forged food. Yay is me.

<LUG_Steve> Fastred -- not much. A brief price list, a discussion of coinage, etc. Not much more I can, or want, to say beyond that.

<LUG_Steve> Have a good feed, Berendir. :)

<Berendir> LOL, thanks ; )

<Fastred> thats ok steve :) Leaves lots of room for the rest of us :)

<LUG_Steve> Fair enuf. :)

<jincey> poor berendir ; )

<Sergalas42> Can't wait to see how the combat works - it was in my oppinion one of MERPS big problems

<oc> What existing systems would you use for Middle-earth, Steve?

<Messiah> yes..i'm eating in style..i have doughnuts..:/

<LUG_Steve> The RoleMaster system certainly has its benefits, but it's not what I want for the LOTR RPG. Our "Coda System" is nothing like RM. ;)

<Fastred> just one question tho steve - do you have a view on population numbers? say in Gondor ? or you don't think its that important to the game?

<N9IWP> not just for breakfast anymore

<Arogant> Fastred-- by economics, do you mean rules for the players managing a domain of some size ?

<Fastred> yea - stuff like that :)

<N9IWP> rollmaster?

<LUG_Steve> OC -- well, my personal favorite for *everything* is the HERO System. I could easily do LOTR RPG with Hero. But for that matter, I could do it with D20 or lots of other systems.

<LUG_Steve> Fastred -- I don't think it's important. Looking too closely at things tends to sap the "magic," after all. :)

<LUG_Steve> There are rules for PCs *having* domains, but not in-depth rules for managing them or reaping bushels of wheat. :)

<Sergalas42> Steve - any hints as for books coming out after the Core book?

<oc> Or if not, what would YOU like to write?

<N9IWP> what, no detailed sheepheading rules?

<N9IWP> hearding

<LUG_Steve> Well, we have some setting books planned -- the North, for one. And some race books on Elves, Dwarves, etc. And a "Book of Fell Beasts." And I think there's a Mirkwood Boxed Set and a Moria Boxed Set a-waitin' in the wings.

<Sergalas42> nerfhearding

<LUG_Steve> OC -- I'm happy to write just about any of the ones I listed. They're all going to be fun. :)

<Sergalas42> Sounds great

<oc> One of the problems with the RPG business is that you do it yourself rather than just consuming, so selling stuff is secondary. Especially to players.

<oc> But companies have to make money with splatbook things.

<oc> Decipher has not track record here, does it?

<LUG_Steve> OC -- yes, that's quite true. One of the reasons the hobby doesn't grow as much as we'd like is that it inherently appeals to creative people who don't necessarily want to buy our (the designers') view of things.

<Sergalas42> Steve - how have you handled religion in the game - it isn't mentioned a lot by Tolkien, it's basically Elven heroworship if it's there at all.

<LUG_Steve> No, not yet. But our Trek RPG will be out soon, and LOTR RPG this spring.

<LUG_Steve> Serg -- I've handled it by not mentioning it at all. It's really not a factor in M-E.

<Sergalas42> Steve - is spring still February or ...?

<oc> It's a factor in that the religious worldview is one of awe: in Middle-earth, close to pantheistic awe.

<oc> Which reflects in how the books are written, we hope.

<N9IWP> spring ends June 20 :)

<LUG_Steve> At this point I think February's an outside possibility, just because there's too much Trek stuff to do first. Probably later in the spring than that. But ya never know.

<Fastred> Steve - re: population etc - I think you can be right - but for me the 'depth' of background in ME is what made LOTR so fascinating :)

<LUG_Steve> OC -- yeah, more or less. There are one or two mentions of the Valar, but that's it.

<N9IWP> unless they move to NZ...

<LUG_Steve> Fastred -- that I understand! I'm one of those guys who sat down and learned to write tengwar. :)

<Arogant> Steve -- will Decipher use its internet site to publish some complements to the RPG ?

<LUG_Steve> I guess each person just has his own level of desireable detail. :)

<Fastred> cool - so you know where i'm comging from :)

<Fastred> whose moving to NZ?

<Fastred> <--- is in NZ

<LUG_Steve> Arogant -- as far as I know, the company intends to have stuff on the website. In fact, I'm soon going to write a couple intro adventures for it, to get new gamers off to a good start.

<N9IWP> decipher, so they can get it out "sping 2002" in august :)

<Arogant> Level of desireable detail : Sauron's stats !

<Sergalas42> Steve - how will the book be innustrated? Pictures from the movies or artists?

<LUG_Steve> Arogant -- the stats for Sauron are: "He can beat any PC at pretty much anything." :)

<Sergalas42> Illustrated - damn it's late here in Denmark

<LUG_Steve> Serg -- original art. No movie stills. The RPG has no connection to the movies, unlike the TCG and AG.

<LUG_Steve> Denmark? Cool.

<oc> Is Legolas supposed to have light or dark hair?

<Strider> brb, must reboot

<Arogant> So what about very powerful characters ? how do you purpose to handle them ?

<Sergalas42> Barliman - What language?

<LUG_Steve> OC -- what do *you* think? :)

<oc> I kinda thought dark.

<Lord_Gandalf> lol

<N9IWP> (as long as Arwen has dark hair, and Galadriel has light, I dont care about hair color)

<LUG_Steve> Arogant -- not sure I understand you. The possibility for powerful characters is there. They're "handled" the same as in other games, I guess -- with more powerful challenges and opponents. :)

<Tas> hhmmm

<LUG_Steve> N9 -- I sorta tend to agree. :)

<Lord_Gandalf> hshs

<Lord_Gandalf> *haha

<Arogant> About very powerful characters, I meant perhaps... retirement with a pension !

<\Rug> Except for the fact that Galadriel won't have dark eyebrows... ;)

<LUG_Steve> Hey, if you can talk Denethor or Theoden out of a pension, more power to ya. :)

<oc> If we're lucky, Steve will write 300-page pdfs in his spare time.

<LUG_Steve> OC -- unlikely. But I suppose it's possible. I've done it for LUG_Trek. :)

<Arogant> \Rug ! Do you mean Gal in the movie not to be a true blond ?

<Sergalas42> Steve - have you spelt out the One Rings Powers or are they unknown except for the corruption and invisibility?

<Arogant> Did you talk about evil characters ?

<oc> Will Decipher be distributing the game through bookstores? It's one of the few decent chances RPGs have had to make that work.

<LUG_Steve> Serg -- they're spelled out and detailed pretty precisely. It took me almost 1,500 words -- nearly two full pages' worth of text, printed -- to describe the dang thing. And then I had to do all those *other* rings.... :)

<Lord_Gandalf> Steve nice to seeya thnx for stopping by. I gotta go, bye all

<LUG_Steve> OC -- yes, AFAIK. That's up to the marketing and sales guys. :)

<LUG_Steve> Bye, L-G. Thanx for stopping by.

<Lord_Gandalf> :) peace out

<Arogant> So what about evil PC ?

<Sergalas42> 1500 words: My god - any hints for us chatters?

<N9IWP> can I be an Ent?

<Berendir> Hello again all.

<LUG_Steve> Arogant -- what about 'em? They're not specifically allowed, though you could concoct your own rules if you wanted. I hope no one will want, tho.

<LUG_Steve> N9 -- no. They're not really appropriate for PCs. You could if your Narrator was willing to allow it, but there's no "Ent" writeup for PCs in the book.

<LUG_Steve> Berendir has returned! :)

<oc> The success of the heroes is what allows the story to be told. The aim of evil characters is to prevent the world.

<LUG_Steve> Serg -- nahhh, you'll just have to wait and see. ;)

<N9IWP> just be the GM if you want to be evil 8)

<LUG_Steve> N9 -- there ya go! :)

<Sergalas42> Had to try ;-)

<LUG_Steve> Can't say I blame you. :)

<Beren> if idle time on irc were to be fully utilised in a constructive manner, well..it's a scary concept.

<LUG_Steve> There are some more details about the game on Decipher's LOTR RPG Message Board -- you can post there and see if you get any luckier. :)

<Joeve> I came in late on this as I see, so I hope it hasn't been asked, but may I ask a question?

<LUG_Steve> Go right ahead, Joeve.

<LUG_Steve> Ask all you want. :)

<Greyhame> Does it show the effects of frodo using the ring in close proximity with the ringwriaths, like enemies suddenly become aware of your position?

<oc> That's part of the risk of RPGs flattening settings so that everything becomes a rule or an entry in an equipment book. Thinning as John Clute called it is the risk Steve has to stay clear of.

<LUG_Steve> Greyhame -- yeah, that's covered.

<Joeve> How does the game deal with weapons and armor, what have you gotten from the books concerning sucj items?

<Greyhame> sorry wasnt here

<LUG_Steve> OC -- right. Or as I put it earlier, sucking the "magic" and wonder out of things by detailing them too much. What I call the "Punisher Syndrome."

<oc> Especially since LotR is a quest to slow thinning down.

<LUG_Steve> Joeve -- well, weapons do a certain amount of damage, and armour absorbs some of that damage (or maybe all, if you're lucky!). There are, oh, half a dozen or so armour types, and maybe 15-20 weapons, all drawn from the books.

<oc> Well, there's Watchmen turning into umpteen formulaic antihero books. But you know about that Steve (though I haven't read Dark Champions).

<Joeve> OK, but I was more curious if you had gotten any design details from the books

<DarthCaeser> OK, folks, were gonna have to wrap this up, were having a Hall of Fire in less then 30 minutes

<Joeve> scuse me for poorly phrasing the question

<Joeve> What's the subject of tonight's halloffire?

<LUG_Steve> Joeve -- well, not "details" in terms of how the armour's made or anything. But plenty of details on types of armour available, and its effects. :)

<DarthCaeser> and we can't keep Steve here all day :)

<DarthCaeser> not a clue

<N9IWP> the next chapetr I think

<LUG_Steve> Well, we'll talk until 7:00 or until there are no more questions, then. ;)

<Nereb> but if he wishes to stay, i'm sure there are other rooms

<Joeve> I see, Steve. I guess I'll have to look at the rulebooks then :)

<Arogant> "Adieu la Lorien" - "Farewell to Lorien"

<oc> Steve, have you seen the Adventure Game map?

<LUG_Steve> OC -- yeah, sure have. I've used one of them to run demos at local cons.

<DarthCaeser> This weekend, the Hall of Fire discusses:

<DarthCaeser> Book II Chapter VIII - Farewell to Lrien

<oc> It had better be really great. The one in the movie companion book is split down a page fold...

<Sergalas42> Last question - Steve: how have you dealt with Mithril (and possibly but hopefully not other strange metals)?

<Joeve> Steve, do you live near the Atlanta area?

<LUG_Steve> Well, ours are more poster-like. They're not bound into a book.

<Joeve> I run a convention there and would like to have you emo the game

<Joeve> demo too

<Messiah> a good map is a wonderful thing with a game..

<LUG_Steve> Joeve -- I live in NC, about five hours north of Atlanta. I get down there occasionally to visit my sister. :)

<DarthCaeser> I'm getting the Adventure Set, specificlly because of the Maop

<DarthCaeser> Map*

<LUG_Steve> If you can cover my expenses, and it fits my schedule, I can certainly come to an Atlanta con as a guest.

<LUG_Steve> Not just map, maps! All sorts of cool maps. :)

<Messiah> i'll have to learn cartography, heh

<Fastred> okay - now i'm interested.... MAPS :)

<DarthCaeser> there's one big one though right?

<Joeve> Maos I'd like to see!

<DarthCaeser> of all of Middle Earth

* Joeve can spell, he just can't type!

<LUG_Steve> DC -- I think so. Not sure; I haven'

<Arogant> How far can go your magic ? Wish spells ? Teleportation ? Balrog invocation ?

<DarthCaeser> I'm not too good at either

<N9IWP> The Atlas is pretty good, except I dont like the colors

<LUG_Steve> haven't been involved in the production of the AG, except to come in occasionally and apply my god-like knowledge o' Tolkien. :)

<LUG_Steve> Arogant -- Nothing like that. That's all too ridiculously powerful and non-flavorful for M-E.

<oc> Did the scholar-guy-who-worked-for-TSR's Hobbit companion come out?

<LUG_Steve> The magic is one of the most important things that gives the setting its feel, and I've worked hard to preserve that.

<Messiah> power is very far from the focus of anything lotr based i would imagine..

<LUG_Steve> OC -- you mean John Rateliff. In fact, he's writing the only two chapters of the LOTR RPG that I'm not writing.

<Sergalas42> Steve - what are Mithrils properties in the game?

<oc> I heard.

<Messiah> all magic is sublte and usually unseen, the greatest power lies in the corrupting influence of the ring..etc

<LUG_Steve> Serg -- it makes really strong armour. And it's really expensive. :)

<Sergalas42> As it should be! :-)

<oc> I'd like to see a big epic adventure so players know what the game is supposed to be like.

<LUG_Steve> Messiah -- yeah, that's it, pretty much. Though "subtle" and "low-key" don't necessarily mean "low-powered" -- some of the spells are pretty potent!

<oc> Either 50 years before LotR or early 4th age.

<Joeve> Frodo's mithril shirt was worth "The entire Shire and everything in it," to give a clue

<Arogant> Is your LotR finished, or can you still change some of it ?

<LUG_Steve> OC -- Ideally I would, too, but the best I can do in the core book is map out a possible chronicle -- which I've done. I hope to put the first couple adventures on the website as free downloads for beginners.

<Greyhame> in-game cinematics?

<LUG_Steve> Arogant -- it's finished in first draft. Plenty of opportunities for change yet. ;)

<Messiah> oh of course, effecting the course of a river..in lotr itself, while a subtle, emphatic form of magic is certainly potent

<Joeve> Is this a computer RPG?

<LUG_Steve> Greyhame -- what do you mean?

<LUG_Steve> Joeve -- no, it's a paper and pencil "tabletop" roleplaying game.

<Messiah> environmental effects of magic..and integration seem key in that atmosphere surrounding it

<Joeve> OK

<Arogant> Oh ! I meant your "LotR RPG" of course, but you understood me...

<Greyhame> any like cut scenes for pivotal parts of the story?

<Greyhame> when you choose to run the War of the ring time period

<N9IWP> approx how many pages again?

<Joeve> Is the game available in stores yet?

<N9IWP> its only at 1st draft!

<LUG_Steve> Greyhame -- unfortunately there's not space for me to go into advanced GMing techniques like that, but it's certainly possible.

<Sergalas42> Steve - any thoughts on making campaigns or adventures for the game? Or will it mainly be settings?

<Berendir> Got a while to go before it's in stores Joeve ; ) LOL.

<LUG_Steve> Joeve -- no, it'll be out sometime this spring.

<oc> How tall are your elves, Steve?

<LUG_Steve> N9 -- it's presently slated for 288 pages.

<LUG_Steve> OC -- as tall as they need to be. :)

<N9IWP> tall enough te reach the ground

<oc> MERP had them 6'6" or something. Movie has them 6'2" I think.

<Berendir> Pointy ears or no? Balrog, wings, or no? LOL

<LUG_Steve> Serg -- we probably won't publish any campaigns -- they're not worth it, profit-wise.

* jincey wonders if fans like the folks here today are having input into the final product : )

<Sergalas42> Hopefully taller than men!

<Sergalas42> Steve - that's okay, I prefer setting material anyways

<oc> Someone has to give the artists consistent briefs...

<LUG_Steve> B -- Balrogs definitely got wings. I see no dispute on that score. As for the pointy ears, what do you think? :)

<jincey> meaning, are you open to suggestions and ideas?

<Joeve> I like the Uruk-Hia myself, I'd love to run a rogue company of them on a quest

<Joeve> Hai not Hia

<Berendir> Pointy ears I'd say.. slightly.. and I'm with you, Balrogs DEFINITELY have wings. Metaphor my arse.

<Messiah> i demand that the issue concerning balrog wings be handled by the UN

<Joeve> what the heck is wrong with my fingers tonight?

<Berendir> lol.

<Messiah> and put down in writing

<Arogant> I think you should give Sauron's stats in one of your complement. RPG players like the idea they could possibly fight him one day !

<N9IWP> actuaccly its a simile

<Joeve> So the game takes place during the 3A or before?

<LUG_Steve> Any PCs who go up against Sauron directly die -- or get taken over. That's pretty much his "stats." :)

<Sergalas42> Is Sauron substantial enough to be fought?

<LUG_Steve> Joeve -- our "default" timeframe is the 70 years before the War of the Ring. But you can set your chronicle whenever you want. ;)

<LUG_Steve> Serg -- he certainly was at the end of the Second Age. See no reason why he wouldn't be now.

<Joeve> that's right after Erebor then...hmm...personally I think I would run a campiagn abut 200 Fourth Age, after Aragorn

<oc> If the heat of his hand doesn't drive you screaming long before you see him.

<LUG_Steve> But he doesn't really need to fight unless he wants to -- I'd say he could just blast any PC down with sorcery if he felt like it. But why bother, with his ability to crush your will and make you his slave? :)

<N9IWP> I like wings, but http://greenbooks.theonering.net/guest/files/080101.html is worth reading

<Joeve> I think I would center it in Bree also, a good place for it

<LUG_Steve> Joeve -- there are lots of good gaming possibilities in Eldarion's time, definitely. Or even earlier in 4A.

<Arogant> That's too bad for Sauron... I really think that RPG players ( and buyers ! ) like to have stats on everything.

<Sergalas42> Isn't Sauron in spiritform for a looong while after loosing the ring (and finger) - or is that something ICE thought up?

<Joeve> There are several good scenarios for campaigns: the Dwarves re-taking Khazad-Dum, the Ents and the Entwives, searching for Radagast, or even adventuring in the wide East

<LUG_Steve> Arogant -- to a certain extent that's true. But this is one case where I'm willing to step up and say, "The customer is wrong." No NPC stats for the Plot Device. :)

<LUG_Steve> If we were ever to do a Second Age Supplement, you might get them there. :)

<N9IWP> sea of Rhn

<Berendir> They didn't think it up.. but Sauron was diminished greatly after the ruin of Numenor, and again, after his ring got cut from his finger.. he was a phantom, but begin to grow in power - hence the whole War of the Ring.

<Berendir> I'm sure one could think of him as having some shape ; ) The movies sure did.

<LUG_Steve> Oh, the movies are doing all *sorts* of things.

<oc> If no one does anything, the entwives are gone, per Letters. With the right acts of heroism, that situation can be made better in some subtle but vital way.

<Joeve> What are you drawing upon inasmuch as mapping out the areas not actually in the book? There is an LOTR Atlas, is this the main reference?

<Esorlem> Thanks for the info Steve. Have fun guys :D

<LUG_Steve> Joeve -- as yet we haven't had to map out any such areas. When we do, we'll just have to use our best judgment and skill, since there are no "canon

<LUG_Steve> references.

<Sergalas> Just got thrown by my modem

<LUG_Steve> That's what you get for trying to ride it without a bridle. :)

<Messiah> lol

<Sergalas> LOL

<LUG_Steve> Any other questions? If not, I suppose we'd better clear out for the upcoming 7:00 chat.

<oc> I don't think Decipher can draw on other third-party works.

<Arogant> I definitely think you should make the promise of publishing one day a complement about the "Very bad guys" including Sauron's stats, and rules to play orcs & trolls. I'm sure you would sell more.

* Berendir asks, "When do we eat?"

<Messiah> yes...

<oc> I wouldn't buy that.

<Messiah> i second berendir's query

<LUG_Steve> If I have any say over it, we will never, ever publish any rules for Orc and Troll PCs.

<Greyhame> is there anyway to play certain things that were described in the appendixes, such as: The Battle of Azanulbizar?

<Joeve> why not?

<LUG_Steve> That's completely contrary to the spirit of the setting.

<Berendir> LOL. The fans are quite pushy on that matter.. hehe.

<Sergalas> Not everyone wants stats for everything - it sometimes encourages players to to think they can kill everything

<LUG_Steve> Greyhame -- sure, you could do that.

<Greyhame> sweet

<Messiah> it's not about numbers..

<Messiah> or ideally not

<oc> There's enough information on those people, I'd never use stats for Sauron or have evil PCs.

<Joeve> I disagree, I think "evil" PC's could be very interesting

<LUG_Steve> The RPG doesn't have an "Azanulbizar" scenario or anything, but you could easily play a "War of the Dwarves and Orcs" chronicle if you wanted.

<Berendir> You could always design them, as was suggested.

<Sergalas> Playing evil is fun for oneshots - but don't really work in longer campaigns

<Berendir> It just won't be done officially - from what I gather.

<oc> When's the Trek/M-e crossover book due out?

<DarthCaeser> 10 minutes until HoF

<Joeve> Does the game cover mass warfare?

<LUG_Steve> OC -- June 31. ;)

<LUG_Steve> Joeve -- yup, there are rules for that.

<Arogant> My last question, on a detail : what about Uruk-Hai in your game ? Are they Saruman's creation ? Or Sauron's one ?

<Arogant> Yes, Joeve.

<Greyhame> Can you command troops, like if your a man of gondor?

<LUG_Steve> Arogant -- Sauron's. That's clear from the appendices.

<LUG_Steve> Greyhame -- you sure can.

<Greyhame> how much?

<LUG_Steve> Even if you're a Hobbit. After all, you're a PC, you're the *key* to the story! ;)

<oc> Is the character sheet too cluttered, Steve?

<LUG_Steve> Well, it's all worked into the rules as to what effect a good leader can have, etc.

<LUG_Steve> OC -- dunno, no one's created it yet. :)

<Joeve> I missed that...where in the appendices does it say that the Uruk-Hai were Sauron's creations?

<LUG_Steve> But it shouldn't be.

<Sergalas> are trolls and orcs - perverted Ents and elves?

<oc> RPG character sheets are almost all too cluttered, I think.

<LUG_Steve> Joeve -- I don't have the precise reference, but IIRC they first appear about TA 2475 out of *Mordor* working for Sauron.

* Elrond bows to everyone and then heads for the door..."Bye!"

<N9IWP> any p[lans on char creation software?

<LUG_Steve> IOW, hundreds of years before LOTR, they were around.

<Arogant> Thanks a lot for coming here and answering to all our geek questions, Steve !

<LUG_Steve> N9 -- none that I'm aware of.

<LUG_Steve> Glad to do it. :)

<LUG_Steve> Anyone who wants more information, stop by the LOTR RPG message boards at www.decipher.com and post any questions you like. ;)

<Messiah> was very informative

<Greyhame> thanks!

<Fastred> thank you Steve :)

<Berendir> Thanks Steven, looking forward to hearing how this progresses ; )

<Fastred> and TORN :)

<LUG_Steve> Anytime. :)

<Sergalas> Yeah - thanks Steve, this has been the best developer chat I've participated in - worth staying up in the middle of the night for

<Arogant> At least I'm glad you'll not fall into Rolemaster complexity with your game.

<Berendir> TORN thanks you, the fans! : P

<LUG_Steve> Well, it's the weekend, Serg, you should stay up late! :)

<DarthCaeser> Your Welcome

<N9IWP> never played rollmaster/rulemaster myself

<oc> Thanks Steve.

<Sergalas> I know - and I am!

<DarthCaeser> we'll be having more soon Sergalas

<jincey> thank you steve for spending so much time with us : )

<Arogant> Rolemaster is definitely unplayable.

<N9IWP> I gott go too

<oc> DarthCaeser, I suppose the CCG has been getting more time on torn.net because it's coming out sooner?

<Fastred> lol

* N9IWP clear

<Fastred> RM is not unplayable

<DarthCaeser> and there's more info, yes

<Berendir> Exactly OC.

<jincey> bye n9!

<Greyhame> whats the name of the game gonna be?

<Berendir> There isn't much news on the RPG at the moment ; )

<LUG_Steve> :)-

<oc> With lots of luck, the RPG has more crossover appeal to *readers*. Would be cool to make that work for once.

<Messiah> no news is good news, any news is good marketting

<LUG_Steve> Time for me to depart, I think -- need to go get a bite to eat.

<DarthCaeser> I'm in love with the TCG

<LUG_Steve> So, see you guys around on the message boards hopefully.

<Arogant> Fastred -- you must have A LOT of free time to play to a complex game like RM.

<Messiah> later on steve

<DarthCaeser> I pulled a Foil Nazgul lastnight, that was too cool

<LUG_Steve> Au revoir. :)

<Sergalas> Farvel Steve - see you later

<Arogant> Bonne nuit Steve !

<Fastred> I don't play RM - I play HarnMaster :)

<Messiah> and so on.

<Joeve> I remember HarnMaster! Good system!

<Joeve> I used to have all the maps and stuff

<DarthCaeser> I hate giving up ops... :)

<Fastred> hehehe - poor Darth

<MelianAFK> lol DC

<Arogant> Bye everyone !

<DarthCaeser> well folks, I'm gonna take a break

<DarthCaeser> bbl

<jincey> thanks darth : )


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